Lillian was in the bath.
Matt was washing her hair.
I was doing what I do, laying out Lillian’s jammies, collecting her dollies to be in bed with her and putting away laundry from the day. I felt my phone buzz in my back pocket and I absent-mindedly took it out and glanced down at a shared post by a friend on FB. It was an article about the power of birth and the connection between mothers and birthing daughters assisting in the birth of their grandchildren. Professional photographs in glossed perfection of soon to be grandmother’s wiping the brows of their daughters, their connection through teary eyes and the agony of birth.
Suddenly I found myself on my knees staring at these pictures. Sadness gripped my chest, tears biting the back of my throat screaming of all the things I have been robbed of.
I remember my mother’s face when she heard the word “expired” come out of the Doctor’s mouth. She was standing in the doorway of my hospital room, it was 1 am after we had been fighting for our lives for hours before. I remember the knowing look in her eye as she realized her 5th grandbaby had died. I remember it all. I remember begging my mother to bring back my baby the day after coming home from the hospital. I remember her tears as she bathed me and minded my scars, taking care of me post-op when I could barely stand.
When I was pregnant with Ava I had dreamed of it being so different. I had dreamed of me leaning on my mother as Matthew applied pressure to my back getting through the heady pain of another contraction. I had dreamed of putting Ava in her arms being forever bonded by the incredible experience of birth, 3 women, 3 generations. Ava wasn’t born that way. Ava was born into silence in a chaotic crash surgery. She was born alone, no mother reaching for her, no father cutting her cord. Ava was robbed, too.
I have never had the birth experience that I thought I would. In the early days of grief I would be gripped with a blind rage when women with perfectly healthy, living children would openly mourn their birth experience. I remember begging for physical torture and trauma in exchange for Ava’s return. Life does not work like that but make no mistake, I would gladly sign up for physical hell to be given one more moment with my daughter, as all loss Mama’s would. It wasn’t as if Lillian’s birth was able to provide the catharsis that so many find in their birth after trauma. Lillian was a planned c-section in the midst of a medical hurricane gripped with fear, anxiety and terror. She came out screaming and perfect and alive. She is here. On the day of her birth I got to hand her to my mother and see the joy and relief in her eyes. I have absorbed her, the moments of her sleeping on Matt’s chest, raising her and getting to love on her every day of her life.
And I was still robbed.
I was wrong about those mother’s that I judged for having a living child and mourning their birth experience. They are grieving. And standing in Lillian’s room, staring at those beautiful photos I was gripped with grief of the loss of yet another thing that slipped through my fingers when Ava died. No number of babies I could have, in whatever means I could have them would grow back my innocence I lost that day. I will never be able to trust my body and trust birth like that, maybe women with traumatic or unfulfilled birth experiences get to find it again but I know the innocence I lost can never be regained. Perhaps that is what sets loss mama’s apart, that loss of innocence.
I can’t say I have made sense of it as you can probably tell by the jumbled mess of the above paragraph. It never fails to surprise me how grief sneaks in and grabs a hold, reminders of my former self, the dreams I had and how they sucker punch me when I least expect it. If grief is the price I pay for loving her then tonight I will spend some time with the love I have for my girl and the life I wanted so badly for us.